Anyone who has come close to Dubai’s Port Rashid has no doubt noticed the incongruous sight of an ageing ocean liner. What was once a symbol of the golden age of ocean travel, the Queen Elizabeth 2, now sits under the Arabian sun, moored since 2008 after completing its final voyage. The illustrious liner, once operated by Cunard, has been a four-star hotel in Dubai since 2017, recently taken over by French-owned Accor and undergoing a transition to become a stylish M Gallery property. Today, the Queen Elizabeth 2 hotel has 13 open decks, 447 rooms and suites, four restaurants, including a quintessential British pub, meeting rooms and a beautiful decking for nostalgic dinners and special events overlooking the Dubai skyline.
Though announced in 2007, the Queen Elizabeth 2 hotel officially opened in 2018 in Dubai’s Port Rashid, northwest of the city, following 10 years out of service. Today, it’s arguably Dubai’s most unique and experiential hotel, far removed from the city’s luxury beach resorts and modern city hotels.
But on top of being an elegant and modern hotel with some fantastic dining outlets, the ship is also an icon of a bygone era, where transoceanic voyages were sometimes months-long affairs with grand costumes, pomp and circumstance. Queen Elizabeth 2 herself named the ship and visited for lunch, and previous guests included the likes of Nelson Mandela, Neil Diamond, Elton John and Elizabeth Taylor. While its rooms have been extensively renovated, a glimmer into the ship’s past remains in its gaming rooms, portholed former cabins and long ship’s corridors, where guests, crew, Cunard bellboys and mariners once frequented.
The Queen Elizabeth 2 first entered service on 20 September 1967 at John Brown’s shipyard on Clydebank in Scotland. She was named by the late Queen Elizabeth in a ceremony with 30,000 in attendance, including her husband, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh. As is tradition, the ceremony concluded with the shattering of a wine bottle on the ship’s bow, and two years later, in 1969, the Queen Elizabeth 2 set sail for her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK, to New York City. She sailed for the next 15 years, undertaking the iconic transatlantic journey, but also completing World Cruises – a novelty at the time – and becoming the biggest ship to ever transit the Panama Canal in 1975 – with less than one foot spare on either side.
In 1982, the QE2 had a brief stint as a wartime vessel, used for troop transport in the Falklands War, where she transferred 3,000 troops back from South Georgia to Southampton on 11 June. Following the war, she returned to her intended use as a leisure cruise vessel, touring the world on global cruises and frequenting ports like Sydney, Australia.
Queen Elizabeth II herself came face-to-face once again with her namesake ship in 1990 as she became the first reigning monarch to go on board a commercial vessel with passengers, enjoying a royal luncheon and flyover from the Royal Air Force. In 1998, to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, travelled aboard the QE2 between South Africa’s Durban and Cape Town, where they met passengers and hosted a charity gala dinner. “Travelling on QE2 was an unforgettable honour and a pleasure,” wrote the former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
In 2007, nearly four decades in service as a celebrated, pioneering and much-loved ocean liner, it was announced that the Queen Elizabeth 2 would become a floating hotel in Dubai, a testament to the emirate’s vision to be a leading tourism destination and allowing travellers to experience this piece of maritime history.
Today, the hotel is open and welcomes guests to experience a touch of this old-world romanticism, to grab a drink in the historic Queens Grill and the Golden Lion and stay in suites that were once cabins, many will portholes to match. Heritage tours are also available from the ship open to both residents and non-guests, allowing visitors to dive into the heyday of one of the world’s last remaining ocean liners and an ode to a glamorous bygone era.
Doubles from AED300 a night; book now